Perhaps it will surprise someone, and perhaps even somewhat outrage, but the legendary papakha owes its cult significance to the Russian Imperial Army. The fact is that in the Caucasus itself, the number of headdresses was very solid. They also wore the so-called Mithrian hats, which consisted of separate vertical lobes converging to the crown, and skufi, and the semblance of a yarmulke, and skullcaps, and felt hats for the warm season. There was even a “hello” from the Ottoman Empire in the form of turbans. They were worn mainly by the Circassians, who were in close contact with the Ottomans. On the famous miniatures of Prince Grigory Gagarin one can find turbans among the Ubykh nobility and among the Natukhai (all these Circassian tribes had the closest contacts with Constantinople).
Of all this assortment, it is the papakha that will personify the Caucasus. And just thanks to Russia, or rather, the Russian Cossacks. General and historian of the Caucasian War Vasily Potto wrote about the Cossacks:
Daddy. The range is amazing
Despite the abundance of other hats, the hat still stood apart. There are many types of classification of dads themselves. It can be classified by material: fur of young lambs (kurpei), fur of astrakhan lambs (karakul), fur of angora goats, skins and fur of adult rams, etc. You can also classify hats by the type of distribution and professional aspects – astrakhan (aka “Bukhara”, was considered festive because of the specifics of the fur and the complexity of the dressing), shepherd (often considered classic, made of sheep’s fur and was very lush, so much so that the shepherds they could fall asleep on it, like on a pillow) and, of course, the Cossack hat, which has a number of features.
Natukha and Ubykh in their headdresses, infinitely far from the hats
But all this is extremely approximate. There were gray, black, white and brown hats. They even made hats with their hide outside, and with fur inside. Some of the hats were extremely high – up to half a meter or more. Such hats looked like battle towers tilted under their own weight. There were hats and very small ones. And, oddly enough, but this element of the highlander’s appearance was extremely susceptible to fashion trends. They then expanded upward, then narrowed, then increased in size, then became more modest.
In the 19th century, hats made entirely of sheep fur began to prevail, but at the beginning of the 20th century, fashion made a sharp turn. Hats similar to a haystack were supplanted by their astrakhan (sometimes from kurpei) low brethren. And since each hat had its own unique manufacturing method, starting with the preparation of the material, we will omit this part.
The functional and social role of the hat in the Caucasus
Despite the common proverb “the hat is for honor, not for warmth,” the functionality of the hat is quite obvious. For example, shepherds (“shaggy”) hats protected people from snow and rain, and shepherds, who sometimes spent the night in the mountains, could use them as a pillow. And, strange as it may sound, these hats protected the owner well from sunstroke, especially if they were made of white sheepskin.
Sheep shepherd hats
But the social role still dominated. Noble and rich people owned 10 or even 15 hats – for all occasions. By the degree of grooming it was possible to determine how wealthy a particular person is. Self-respecting men did not appear in public without a hat. Knocking off a hat is like challenging. And to take someone else’s hat meant to offend a person.
The loss of a papakha under any circumstances, both among the mountaineers and among the Cossacks, was a foreshadowing of imminent death. If the owner himself tore off his hat and hit it on the ground, then this was tantamount to the statement “I fight to death.” This sign was common among the Cossacks.
Among the highlanders, the papakha even served as a means of … matchmaking. A young man who did not want to declare his feelings publicly had to sneak up to the girl’s house late in the evening. Taking a comfortable position, young Romeo “opened fire” directly into the window with his own hat. If such an important headdress did not fly back instantly, then one could count on reciprocity and send matchmakers.
The proverbs of the people also assigned a special place to the hat: not a man is the one who cannot preserve the honor of his hat; if the head is intact, there should be a hat on it; if you have no one to consult with, ask the hat for advice.
Karakul “festive” hat
Hats became almost the main characters of fairy tales, legends and toasts. And in 1990, the North Ossetian television even released a full-length film entitled “The Magic Hat”. The film, based on Ossetian folk tales, tells about the funny adventures of the poor mountaineer Uari, who opposed three abreks, with his wit and … a hat.
Papakha and her parade on the troops of the empire
It is not just impossible to indicate the exact date when the hat began to take root among the Russian Cossacks, this, perhaps, is not required, because it does not exist in nature. Firstly, the Cossacks had their own prototype of the papakha – a large fur hat, similar to the shepherd’s one. Secondly, the lamb’s hat, almost indistinguishable from the papakha, called the hood, was extremely common back in the 16th century. Thirdly, in the same 16th century in Moscow, Caucasian merchants began to trade in their goods. “Chekmeni of the Circassian cut” were in special demand, i.e. Circassian familiar to us. But hats were not stale either, although, of course, it was still very far before the official adoption of this headdress as a statutory one.
The first attempts at semi-official wearing of a hat in service date back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries. So, General Pyotr Gavrilovich Likhachev, having got to the Caucasus, quickly realized the need to radically change the tactics and rules of training fighters. He did not forget about a kind of acclimatization, so Likhachev was one of the first who decided to retreat from uniforms. It was then that the papakha took the place of the heavy and uncomfortable shako.
Alexey Ermolov and Pyotr Likhachev
Wayward and greedy for independence for the sake of solving problems, General Alexei Petrovich Ermolov followed Likhachev’s example. So, during the campaign for the foundation of the Groznaya fortress (the future city of Grozny), Ermolov, due to the fierce heat, allowed the troops to go in only shirts. Later, Yermolov secretly, so to speak, secretly carried out a reform of the uniforms of his troops, a hat will also become part of this reform.
In 1817, line Cossack artillerymen were supposed to wear a Circassian coat of dark gray cloth with gazyrnitsy, and as a headdress a hat made of cloth, modeled on the Circassian with a black lamb band, acted as a headdress. In fact, this hat was not much different from a hat, but this word was bypassed.
A radical official change in the views of the authorities on the uniforms of units that fought in the Caucasus will occur in 1840. The changes began with the uniforms of the Black Sea Cossack troops. The troops began to receive fur hats with a cloth top, it is sometimes called a cap. Naturally, even then the fighters began to modify the hat somewhat. Despite the fact that the hat in rare cases itself softened the blow of even the sabers, the Cossacks also put a small piece of metal under the cloth cap.
Since then, the papakha began its march among the troops. In the middle of the 19th century, the regiments of the Separate Caucasian Corps received hats as official uniforms. From the beginning of the second half of the 19th century, the hat was officially worn in the Orenburg and Siberian buildings.
Finally, on February 3, 1859, a military-style detailed description of the approved headdress was published. The height of the hat (22 cm), the material, the shape of the cap and its color were indicated, depending on the rank, type of troops and place of service. Up to tenths, the size and color of the braids were indicated, with which the seams of the papakha were lined.
In 1875, the papakha reached Eastern and Western Siberia. Senior and lower ranks of the troops located in this huge region were required to wear hats modeled on the Cossack units. Of course, such a wide march of the hat through the army units introduced certain adjustments to the unification and reduction of the cost of production of this headdress. So, in the same Siberia, hats were made from lamb (the skin of a lamb of a coarse-wooled breed of sheep). And although the lush shepherd’s hats brought in a certain unique Caucasian flavor, in battle they unmasked positions, and the long hair interfered with aiming. Thus, the short-haired lamb has solved several problems at once.
Finally, after a series of improvements for the sake of maximum functionality in 1913, the hat was introduced for all personnel of the army’s ground forces. It was the pre-war papakha that entered the great and terrible period of the revolution. Despite the planting of the famous Budenovka in 1919, the papakha continued to be actively used both by the Red Army and in the ranks of the White movement. Only later, in the 1920s, hats began to be eliminated in the Red Army, but this process did not last long either.
In 1936, the Central Executive Committee of the USSR issued a decree “On lifting the restrictions on service in the Red Army from the Cossacks.” Simultaneously with this decree, the question arose about the uniform of the Cossack units. Of course, given the modernity, the papakha became part of the ceremonial uniforms of the Kuban, Don and Terek Cossacks.
The papakha of the Kuban and Terek Cossacks was not tall. In fact, it was the familiar to us “Kubanka”, which was also called the “Ossetian” papakha. It was made from the aforementioned lard. At the same time, the papakha of the Kuban Cossacks had a red cloth top, and the Terek Cossacks had a blue one. The hats of the Don Cossacks were slightly higher.
However, in 1941, hats were slowly removed from the army’s supply. The functionality of this legendary headdress in the new conditions was extremely low. And although in the partisan and cavalry formations, the papakha lived up to the Victory Parade in 1945, her time as part of everyday uniforms is gone.
According to the order of the NKO of the USSR in 1940, the “Regulation on the uniform of the generals of the Red Army” was introduced. Thanks to this position, the papakha was preserved in the army, but exclusively as a winter headdress for the generals. A little later, in 1943, a hat was introduced for colonels of all branches of the military.
Kuban Cossacks in characteristic caps meet with the allies in 1945
Papakha lived to see the collapse of the Soviet Union. The new Yeltsin government, despite openly opposing itself to the Soviet period, took up the elimination of more than a century-old tradition of the papakha with much more enthusiasm than the red ones. In 1992, for the first time, the question arose about the abolition of popes for the generals in principle. Boris Nikolayevich with all his might, contrary to even common sense, strove to make “his” army look different from the Soviet army … The results are known to everyone. At the same time, the hats began to be replaced with ordinary hats, and since there was always not enough money, the change of hats lasted for many years.
Finally, in 2005, hats were “rehabilitated” for senior officers.
Modern funny “challenges” to old traditions
Undoubtedly, the papakha is a cult item, both for the Russian people (especially the southerners) and for the mountain peoples. It is both a symbol of masculinity, and a symbol of honor, and a symbol of loyalty to the roots. But a part of the modern “mimic” society, which is loaded into the global network by all the brain cells, does not understand these roots, and therefore does not tolerate them.
The famous athlete Khabib Nurmagomedov goes to his fights in a simple shepherd’s sheepskin hat. With this, the UFC fighter demonstrates his love for the traditions of his ancestors and denotes his small homeland. He had to give more than a dozen interviews to foreign journalists until they realized that this was not a wig, but a very old headdress. Voluntarily or involuntarily, with this gesture, Khabib multiplied the orders to the Caucasian hat-makers. They even got clients from the USA. It would seem that this is a good thing …
But during another interview, Khabib said:
“Where I grew up, we wear hats … It takes honor, you have to be a man. Only real men wear hats – our women don’t wear hats ”.
Less than a week later, the young ladies, who were striving to earn a little cheap popularity on the Internet, were indignant and began a flash mob, uploading their photos in hats to the network. And since the Caucasian feminists (there are some), popularized by pro-Western resources, but living farther from the Caucasus, instantly supported this clownery, the scandal quickly erupted.
Fortunately, the ancient tradition is ancient for that. She will survive that too.